The Influence

All the Light The Influence When my editor in Dubai posted a Tweet that she’d read All the Light We Cannot See, I decided that it appeared to be an interesting read. While I typically favor non-fiction, occasionally it is refreshing to delve into literature, especially if it is vivid in descriptive prose, as is this book.

Cited with accolades, it took a while for it to become available from my library near Chicago because four other patrons thought to reserve it as well before it was my turn. And I happened to be in a severe time crunch with six freelance projects locking me down, whereby the only exercise I caught was fetching groceries, running upstairs to use my printer, or dragging the laundry basket to the basement.

When I finally brought the book home, I kept it perched on my glass table in the living room, opposite the couch where I have set up a comfortable workstation with a bright daylight view out the picture window. I tired from staying stuck with my laptop on my kitchen table for many years, as I spend enough time in the kitchen.

One day, my daughter came to visit. She saw the book and lit up. “Ah! I’m reading the same book!” She’d seen it at our local book store, where she sometimes likes to go and lose herself in the imaginary world that only reading can reveal.

At hearing that from her, although I’d considered just returning it, unread, due to my workload, I committed to find time enough to push through about 100 pages per day. I’m about half way through, and am seriously considering gifting a copy to a favored nephew. And that chain of events triggered the realization of the power of influence. Manipulating this can be a useful tool or a nemesis.

My Fitbit, which has heightened my awareness about sleep and activity levels, has prompted former students, friends, and relatives to connect with me, and it has influenced my desire to strive harder for more activity and to defend my need for more sleep…though I am still working on improvement.

Granted, in times like the present when I have a ton of work or even when I have had some overuse injuries, I can’t match my own goals; however, though I set my daily step goal for 12,000 on average, I have the influence of my students, some 30 years younger, achieving 140,000 steps weekly. That has some degree of motivation for me because at my core is a bit of competitive drive, and that’s a treasure.

Do you deliberately fuel yourself with things that can influence you toward success in your health, work, and relationships? There are benefits to immersing yourself with art, music, spiritual nurturing, science discoveries, nature, literature, and reminders which yield your gratitude.

Especially in these times when much disruption, disorder, and disgusting behavior is seen, these are salves which help keep us driving forward for our aspirations to not be obliterated. This innate ability to mirror higher ordered conduct and elements associated with civilization can be used for our benefit or our detriment. It depends on our choices, so be sure to feed your body, mind, and soul with better content and use influence to help others as well.

Eclipse Day 2017

IMG_1088 Eclipse Day 2017 With My Besties

Before the euphoria fades, Eclipse Day 2017 goes down as one of the best days with my girlfriends, my Besties. We indulged ourselves with a precious day on the shore of Lake Michigan by the Michigan Dunes.

In our forties and fifties, we are a congruous squad who have raised children, now adults, and are fully engaged in work and family matters. We go full force, typically seven days a week with responsibility, but occasionally we do outings like this to commune and recharge. And this trip with its adventures, laughs, sunshine, sand, and the restorative powers of swimming, relaxing, and enjoying nature by the lake was entirely satisfying.

Being Eclipse Day made it even more special. We shunned the circuses and crowds but chose to observe how the sun dialed down its intensity, as though it was nearing sunset, albeit it was mid-day. The gulls soared in flight making circles by the outcrop of trees where they nest, and the temperature and waves calmed some as we intuited that the eclipse had begun, for we had not purchased special glasses.IMG_1090 (480x640)

Instead, we briefly shot indirect pictures of the sun behind our heads using camera phones with no filters trying to see any changes. We really didn’t get more than some diffuse clouds, rainbow and orbital rings around the sun in our images; but as some people did offer to share with us a glimpse through their poster board framed eclipse glasses, we saw the amazing image of the dark moon’s shadow overlapping the brilliant sun.

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We appreciated the power of that celestial body, and it gave us a greater perspective to realize that while our retinas could easily be damaged by directly gazing at the sun, our skins are so very protective of that same amount of exposure to radiation. All creation is truly a miracle.

In connecting with the universe and acknowledging its Creator, I am healed, renewed; and after posting this as a reminder of the true reality, I will go back to racing through my work projects because tomorrow I head off to learn about a halal dairy brand in Wisconsin.

My Media Message

Ertugrul   My Media Message

“Resurrection: Ertugrul,” also originally titled “Dirilis: Ertugrul,” is on Netflix. Filmed in the Turkish language with subtitles, it tells a historical rendering of feudal Turkey in the time of the Crusades. I’m not a scholar of Turkish history, but what I like about it is that it is not wretchedly sexualized, indecent, horrifically violent and depraved like “Game of Thrones,” which I discontinued after two seasons. I’d notice how disturbed, agitated, and unsettled I’d felt when watching G of T, but the twists in the tales tended to keep me curious until I just determined that it affected me, costing my peace, at the least.

The Turkish show, though not quite as twisted with multiple story threads, reveals a code of living that we don’t seem to have in many families and social institutions. It nicely demonstrates a life with religious values and customs which relate to Islam. For example, people ask permission to enter the homes of others. This was directly advised in the Qur’an.

“O you who have believed, let those whom your right hands possess and those who have not [yet] reached puberty among you ask permission of you [before entering] at three times: before the dawn prayer and when you put aside your clothing [for rest] at noon and after the night prayer. [These are] three times of privacy for you. There is no blame upon you nor upon them beyond these [periods], for they continually circulate among you – some of you, among others. Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.
And when the children among you reach puberty, let them ask permission [at all times] as those before them have done. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.” – Quran 24:58-59

Another feature I noticed was the role of the bey’s (leader’s) wife, who wisely is the confidante and counsel to her husband. She has significant power and is intelligently aware, but her husband has the position of tribe leader. Other women too, are respected and use their voice in opinions and yet, they are protected, treasured, and valued for the work they do to contribute to the community. Coincidentally, it also features Cameron Diaz’s doppelganger!

Over my life, I have seen some changes in gender roles and in the lot given to American women; and while I do not advise to go back to 1950’s gender roles in the limits that women endured, I see an erosion of family values and vacuum in teaching good character and ethics. Many mothers are working so hard to provide for their families, that they have little time and energy left for personally guiding their kids and enjoying relationships with spouses and friends.

This brings me to another point about the impact of media.

While driving one of my sons (and his two cats) back to his apartment in the city, he shared an interesting perspective with me. He’d mentioned that it was considered “cool” to be rude and disrespectful to adults when he was a teen. Now he finds it incredible that I had the patience to endure his attitudes and antics.

Reflecting on the past, I do believe the Disney Channel, which we “cool” parents were held ransom to provide via cable TV, was culpable in the shift from what I’d modeled as a kid. My high level of TV consumption was certainly instructive.

As a youngster, I was influenced by reruns of “The Little Rascals”, as was my father. And I gleaned my perspectives of fathers from “Father Knows Best,” “The Lucy Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Bonanza,” “Mayberry RFD,” and “Leave It to Beaver.”

Other shows I enjoyed were “Dobie Gillis,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Batman,” “Superman,” “Zorro,” “The Lone Ranger,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “The Honeymooners,” “Gidget,” “The Flying Nun,” and “I Dream of Jeannie.” My family watched “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Lawrence Welk” for entertainment. These all bring happy memories to this day.

Then, as I went through my adolescence, I raced through chores to watch “The Brady Bunch,” “Bewitched,” “It Takes a Thief,” “Love American Style,” “Fantasy Island,” and “The Love Boat.” That correlated with the time when I found myself at odds with my parents, especially my mother who did not appreciate my subscription to Cosmopolitan magazine, with its cleavage teasing cover shots. And life was decidedly not so innocent, nor so happy.

Americans are not happy. Maybe it’s more than the unacceptable conduct and rhetoric of our president. I expect our leaders to exemplify the highest of virtues and to be examples of higher quality character. The media influences us in many ways, and the state of the nation may be a result of our poor choices, as I conclude from the outpouring of ignorance and hate in deeds and words. The resurrection of people with morally diseased hearts is apparent, and I thought the messages of brotherhood, liberation and the Age of Aquarius had taken root. The weeds of society are still among us, and they have nasty thorns.

Some people fail to realize that we are of different races, ethnicities, and cultures as a benefit to our humanity. Exploration of languages, cultures, handiwork, and cuisines is sustenance for our intellect, and I believe diversity in America is our strength. In these are clues for appreciation of our Creator.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” –Quran 49:13

Knowing that we all bleed red, I find the current culture of rudeness unacceptable, and I call upon our schools, media, and parents to promote justice, manners, tolerance, industriousness, and civility. In short, let’s resurrect a conscious humanity, find our joie de vivre, and choose leaders who will work for the benefit of all citizens. We’ve been duped, sold out, but our system has the capacity to correct this mess. I’m counting on it.

But when people are too busy slaving to survive, the fox can get in the hen house. That’s where he is now and we should learn from this. Democracy needs whistleblowers and watch dogs, and this is where media can be a force for goodness and virtue. We just have to choose wisely so they get the message.

The Future of Education Includes Self-Care

Education is what other people do to you. Learning is what you do to yourself.” (p. 167).

The future of education must address the unmet needs of companies who seek employees with both math and social skills, and the struggle of teachers to care for their selves.

Responding to educators’ needs in juggling their students’ job market preparation and their own self-care, I will be presenting at the upcoming ISNA Education Forum.

Based on books and articles, and apps I have used, my session is backed by research and my own experiences. As an experienced educator and administrator in a parochial school, I know the struggle between keeping tuition rates low, to accommodate middle and lower socioeconomic families, and teachers not being able to afford healthcare, domestic help, and niceties like new clothes, shoes, restaurants, and vacations, unless their salaries are supplemented with additional income. It is also a problem when teachers and administrators give many years of service to their community and then have no capitalization for retirement. That is why it is imperative to invest in self-care.

Exploring the topic from spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional perspectives, we will examine priorities and craft a plan to realize that as givers, we have to give ourselves permission to be responsible and designate our boundaries in the interest of self-preservation.

My business has opened new glimpses into what education, optimized entrepreneurship, and investment opportunities will be in the future, and it is only beginning.

That is why we will explore how teachers can start a paradigm shift to meet that future in a wholistic capacity to serve while not depleting themselves in the process.

“Education is what other people do to you. Learning is what you do to yourself.” –From Whiplash: How to survive our faster future by Joi Ito (MIT Lab) and Jeff Howe

Recipe for Leadership and Economic Success

fullsizerender Half of America is stunned by results of the 2016 presidential election, and it is disturbing to see such deep emotional responses ranging from blatant uncivil conduct to outright depression and fear.

Smoldering xenophobia and racism has been uncovered, and it is reminiscent of bad days I’d thought passed from the black-and-white TV news clips seen when I was a child in the 60s. What folly based in ethnocentric myopia! It is especially surprising in an age in increased connectivity and access to global communities.

Trump has stirred up and re-ignited embers not yet extinguished, but it was fueled by a void in leadership and economic stresses exacerbated by our fiat currency. A bipartisan stalemate, political representatives and media bought by special interests, and economic hardship for most Americans has created this dilemma.

The two majority parties, who should have selected better candidates, obviously chose their presidential nominees because they wanted to secure their futures with more of the same. Meanwhile, a vast number of folks representing both sides directly sought change for the betterment of the country, but we will see what change we will get now.

Trump, although given the opportunity, has ironically chosen to be silent now on the civil unrest he seemed to imply was acceptable by his own unpresidential conduct. He promised solutions, and we will see if he has the capacity to play politics as well as he played the people.

However, I am pleased that the Obama administration respected the will of the people and legal treaty to support the stay at Standing Rock. Also, in eight years, the sky did not fall in from the economic plight left by both the Bush and Clinton administrations, but I don’t believe the numbers that imply that we are really better off now.

Compared to the global growth in economies, America is still not showing enough real traction to overcome its debt burdens. These were created by a few malevolent players that dominate finance, pharmaceutical, insurance, petroleum, and weapons industries.

Historically, war has been used to create economic growth and wealth for the few at the expense of human suffering and lives. Let’s not fall into the traps that are set by these parasites. Let’s not capitulate to hate and fear, which are deliberately being provoked to justify the next agenda of the ultra-elitist manipulators.

I’m touched to see communities reaching out and people talking to each other so that those hateful and ignorant embers do indeed die and we can progress in solid unity, as our country was conceived to be. We educators need to give a global perspective to our students and encourage the study of foreign cultures and languages. We, as Americans, need to travel and see more of the world in order to understand that we as humanity share the earth and its resources. Only then can we collaborate to find solutions for global sustainability and secure a free America.

Entrepreneurship, creating value and jobs through the production of goods and services, is an area familiar to Trump. I hope he will greatly use that avenue to make America great again. Meanwhile, he could do more to heal wounds that need mending so that his four years have a chance for a favorable legacy.

America the Salad

img_2540 In America, food reflects our country, and I love it! Snarfing down a lunch salad, I have quinoa, historically from the Inca civilization; couscous, typically north African; and a melee of vegetables, herbs, and spices that represent a world of cuisine. Since my days as a Sociology major, I was intrigued by cultures and subcultures, and even one of my favored professors went undercover to research the runaway prostitution train—until he was suspiciously murdered in Florida.

When I married my Palestinian husband, 35 years and 4 children ago, I anticipated a life of adventure. We’d planned to go to Saudi Arabia to become millionaires in the 80s; but I’m amused that although things did not turn out as I’d expected, we launched an export trade company and do business today with folks from many different ethnicities where we pick up smatterings of several languages and meet many fine people…here in America!

Diversity is what makes America great, and frankly I think that those who live their lives in silos are missing so much of the richness out there. As an educator, I celebrate that our schools are valuable meeting places for our children to learn about other cultures and religions first-hand.

When I was in 3rd grade, I went home with Angelica; she was Latino, and ate different food than my family. However, it was tasty! Then in 6th grade, I played at the house of my friend Patti; she was Jewish, and I learned that in a kosher kitchen one does not eat shellfish nor mix milk into scrambled eggs like my mom did. Although they were different from me, an American, Roman Catholic with Polish and Lithuanian ancestry, I considered them to be among my nicest friends.

To those people who are bent out of shape, arrogant, ethnocentric, and generally pissed off at the world, I say “Eat a samosa!” Indo-pak food is delicious! Enrich your life and appreciate the real, vibrant, and decent neighbors who are immigrants. Check out ethnic restaurants, and live a more fabulous life. In America, you have a world of possibilities, literally.

A New Learning Paradigm

10020940964_9a153ac6e2_zEducation in the U.S. is slowly evolving to face its competition–a young, curious and inventive demographic found in countries that highly value their educators, and increasingly in developing countries where youth use technology to access the world.

Somewhere along the way we questioned if teaching penmanship was still relevant in an age of keyboarding. Well, I will verify that it is—as long as we still hand write notes, essays, and the free responses on standardized exams. These are the evidences we associate with learning; and yet, is what we learn in school still relevant to our needs today?

Perhaps the answer to this is dependent on what role in society we assume, or what roles our children will hope to actualize. And one also ponders if teachers, with rapidly evolving technologies, are keeping current?

We live in an age of educational abundance, thanks to the internet. Though, while people in remote developing nations are investing with curiosity in their enhancement of knowledge and commerce, are we significantly invested as a nation in our own self-improvement?

With a smorgasbord of courses, free and paid content, how many spend at least two hours a week accessing professional development and cultivating new skills that will meet the requisite level of competence for adequately responding to global challenges? If not, then we become dinosaurs and demonstrate a miserable model of irrelevance.

Investing in professional development is a wise choice, and just may help secure value-driven personal profit, contentment, and a link to the interconnected matrix of diverse people who are connecting to work well together and prosper.

If interested in this topic for a keynote or professional development, visit my website at susanlabadi.com